Most Anticipated: Our 2020 Fall Poetry Preview

Our Fall Preview continues with poetry, with an intriguing selection of debuts, selected/collected works, and other excellent new releases.

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(Re)Generation (January) contains selected poetry by Anishinaabe writer Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm that deals with a range of issues: from violence against Indigenous women and lands to Indigenous erotica and the joyous intimate encounters between bodies. Susan Alexander’s Nothing You Can Carry (September) is rooted in a keen, even holy, sense of place within the natural world. Text Messages (September) is the first multi-genre collection by Montreal-based Iraqi hip-hop artist, activist, and professor Yassin “Narcy” Alsalman. And Dearly (November) is Margaret Atwood’s first collection in over a decade, bringing together many of her most recognizable and celebrated themes, but distilled.

The concerns of Swivelmount (September)—the collapse of subject and world, eros and law, knowledge and bafflement—gain new urgency as Ken Babstock fiercely reimagines and reassembles the remnants into a viable order. A bold experiment in autobiography, Lost Family: A Memoir (September) is a book of sonnets that centres around the deaths of John Barton's mother and sister, tracking much of the poet's early life in Alberta through to a conflicted, restless adulthood, alongside tales of love, friends and mentors, intolerance, AIDS, and the struggle for equality. And The Cybourg Anthology (October), by Lindsay B-E, is organized like a typical anthology of literature, split into sections that include a biography of each poet and a sample of their poetry, covering early Cyborg poetry, political, celebrity, and pop culture poets, and ending with the next generation of Cyborg poets.

Ross Belot's latest collection, Moving to Climate Change Hours (August) is a dark ode to the end of oil. The latest from Vivek Shraya's VS. Books is Burning Sugar (October), by Cicely Belle Blain, a poetic exploration of Black identity, history, and lived experience influenced by the constant search for liberation. Avant Desire: A Nicole Brossard Reader (August) edited by Sina Queyras, Geneviève Robichaud, and Erin Wunker, is the definitive survey of an essential feminist poet. And centred on the everyday, and crafted without preamble or pretension, the poems in Angela Carr’s Without Ceremony (October) are a literary pastiche—a thematic mosaic not unlike tracks on an album.

Halifax’s Poet Laureate Afua Cooper and photographer Wilfried Raussert collaborate in Black Matters (October), a book of poems and photographs focused on everyday Black experiences. Everybody’s Martyrology (September), by Frank Davey, provides commentary and analysis for almost every page of bpNichol’s meandering nine-volume lifelong poem, The Martyrology—a poetic pondering of the inevitable extinction of the human species. Joseph Dandurand’s The East Side of It All (October) is the journey of a broken man gifted with stories and poems who finally accepts his gift and shares with the world his hidden misery and joy.

eat salt | gaze at the ocean (July), by Junie Désil, explores the themes of Black sovereignty, Haitian sovereignty, and Black lives, using the Haitian (original) zombie as a metaphor for the condition and treatment of Black bodies. A.B. Dillon's newest collection, Murmuration (September), is a hybrid of memoir and prose poetry, curated masterfully upon the physics of flock behaviour called murmuration, which uses the rule of sevens—the idea that an optimal balance can be achieved when the birds interact with about seven of their neighbors. Mixing historical documents, oral histories, and experimental translations of the original lesbian poet’s works, Entering Sappho (September), by Sarah Dowling, combines documentary and speculation, surveying a century in reverse.

Propositions and Prayers (November), Lise Downe’s first book of poetry in nine years, blurs the boundaries between inner and outer experiences of the self, often subverting expectations and habit in their deconstruction of structure and style. Walking poems and driving poems, Taryn Hubbard’s debut poetry collection, Desire Path (July) grows from the impulse to explore home in the suburb—in the intersections, overlaps, and gaps between urban and rural. And Danielle Janess's debut poetry collection, The Milk of Amnesia (October), resists the erasing effects of war, nationalism, and forced migration.

Like Anne Carson writing poetry in the style of the poet alchemist Arthur Rimbaud, Jessie Jones renders her reflections with acerbic brilliance in her debut collection, Fool (September). A new poetry collection from Donna Kane, Orrery (September) is inspired by the Pioneer 10 space probe, which launched in 1972 to study Jupiter’s moons. In poems that contemplate human experience, Sarah Klassen charts the paths we travel in The Tree of Life (September). And James Lindsay’s Double Self-Portrait (August) explores doubling and reproduction in art, memory, culture, nostalgia and fatherhood.

Book Cover The Burden of Gravity

In her disarming debut, The Burden of Gravity (August), Shannon McConnell recalls a dark time in BC’s history to give poetic voice to the many forgotten residents of the infamous Woodlands School. mahikan ka-onot (October) collects the finest work of accomplished Indigenous poet Duncan Mercredi, from his first book in 1991 to recent unpublished poems. And themes of memory and trauma, reliability and unreliability, binaries and magic, and the question of how to hold two very different things at once, are at the heart of Jessica Moore’s The Whole Singing Ocean (October).

Bird Shadows (October), by Jennie Morrow, is a playful tale of eccentricities, misconceptions, and misogyny. Render (September), by Sachiko Murakami, is a collection of searing, intimate poems that render a history of trauma, addiction, and recovery through dreams and waking experience. Watch Your Head (October), edited by Kathryn Mockler, is a collection of art about the climate crisis that calls for justice and systemic change while raising funds to help tackle the problem. In the long poem This Radiant Life (November), translated by Erín Moure, Chantal Neveu draws from the lexicons of science, art, revolution, and corporeal movement to forge intense and extended rhythms that invoke the elements and spaces making up our world.

Dominik Parisien's debut collection Side Effects May Include Strangers (October) is a poignant celebration of the complicated lived experience of disability, a challenge to the societal gaze, and a bold reconfiguration of the language of pain. Blending lore and magic with contemporary questions around belief and beauty, power and fear, The Hammer of Witches (August), by Kelly Rose Pflug-Back, is a grimoire for our times. A rogue moose wanders into a suburb near Quebec city, tramples lawns and gardens, stumbles in and out of a swimming pool, is tracked by three gun toting heads of family who shoot it down just as a school bus goes by wherein a little girl is trilling "Three Little Kittens"—thus begins No Grave For This Place (September), Judy Quinn's bleak, ironic, and at times darkly comic tribute to Auberivière, the neighbourhood where she grew up

Cephalopography 2.0 (August), by Rasiqra Revulva, is as much a passionate celebration of cephalopods in all their plurality and finery as it is a collection of poems exploring human identity and experience through the lens of these marine animals. Vancouver poet Shaun Robinson's If You Discover a Fire (October) is a debut collection of poems that make a virtue of their failure to communicate. Part roman à clef, lies, composite, and compendium, Everything You Hold Dear (September), by Jamie Sharpe, is an ode to poetry and a posthumous work from a living writer.

It Was Never Going to Be Okay (October), by Jaye Simpson, is a collection of poetry and prose exploring the intimacies of understanding intergenerational trauma, Indigeneity and queerness, while addressing urban Indigenous diaspora and breaking down the limitations of sexual understanding as a trans woman. In Emily Skov-Nielsen's thrumming debut, The Knowing Animals (September), our consciousness is interconnected with the surrounding trees, bugs, rivers, atmospheres, and cosmos, where, flowers escape Victorian domestication and ally with girls' green powers of attraction. And Douglas Burnet Smith’s Burden (October) is the story of a 17-year-old British soldier, Private Herbert Burden, who was shot for desertion during World War I.

John Steffler, former Poet Laureate of Canada and finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize returns with a wide-ranging new collection of poems, And Yet (September). Zigzagging across the globe, Kate Sutherland’s fourth book, The Bones are There (October), is poetry by way of collage: pieced-together excerpts from travellers’ journals, ships’ logs, textbooks and manuals, individual testimony, even fairy and folk tales that tell stories of extinction—of various species, and of our own understanding of, and culpability within, its process.

Diverse and probing, I place you into the fire (October), by Rebecca Thomas, is at once a meditation on navigating life and love as a second-generation Residential School survivor, a lesson in unlearning, and a rallying cry for Indigenous justice, empathy, and equality. Check (October), by Sarah Tolmie, is a book of contemporary poetic satire about the groups that we inevitably form and their consequences: in-groups and out-groups and mutual suspicion. The Only Card in a Deck of Knives (August), by Lauren Turner, is a groundbreaking new collection in the area of sickness poetry.

Anna van Valkenburg’s debut poetry collection is Queen and Carcass (September), an unpredictable, and deeply surreal exploration of identity and the multiple contradictions we each embody. Sarah Venart's I am the Big Heart (November) is a love story to the emotional self—this heart is tender, but it also has a savage bite. Paul Vermeersch reinvents the “new and selected” in Shared Universe: New and Selected Poems 1995–2020 (September). And the music of thinking. The thinking of music. Music at the Heart of Thinking (July), by Fred Wah, is a poetry that works through language as the true practice of thought and improvisation as the tool that listens to and notates thinking.

In Word Problems (September), Ian Williams tries to force poetry to offer us such unambiguous answers, slotting tough questions about racial inequality, our pernicious depression, and troubled relationships between people—questions that resist tidy resolutions—into verse. Current, Climate (August) is an introduction to the environmental and social-justice poetry of Rita Wong, with an introduction by Nicholas Bradley. And thematic consistency and technical inventiveness shine in The Essential Derk Wynand (September), a selection of Derk Wynand's emotionally intelligent poetry.

August 6, 2020
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